New plant breeding guidance from Health Canada

On May 16, Health Canada published new guidance to address the latest innovations in plant breeding and improve the transparency, clarity and predictability of the Canadian Novel Food Regulations. This new guidance was a government and industry priority for many years and has major benefits for all government economic, food security, and environmental goals.

As part of the development of this new guidance, Health Canada examined all of the available scientific evidence related to new technologies used in plant breeding. Additionally, Health Canada consulted with various experts from a wide range of sectors in order to make sure the guidance is sound and evidence-based. There were over 4,600 responses to Health Canada’s public consultation. The development of this guidance was a governmental joint effort between Health Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

The new guidance adds clarity to when food products developed through plant breeding require a mandatory pre-market assessment. New breeding techniques such as gene-editing offer flexible and affordable tools to assist in the development of innovative agricultural products. More and more there has been a growing recognition internationally of the role that gene-edited products can play in helping to address global challenges such as food security, nutrition, climate change, and pest pressures. The new guidance from Health Canada is well-situated within international trends for the oversight of gene-edited products.

With the high amount of interest in genetically modified foods, Health Canada is introducing a new transparency initiative. This initiative will help Canadians access more information about non-novel, genetically modified foods produced by gene-edited plants. The agricultural industry is committed to participating in Health Canada’s transparency initiative and are looking to enhance the initiative at the variety level.

For more details, you can find Health Canada’s new guidance under Appendix 1 and 2 of the Guidelines for the Safety Assessment of Novel Foods.

For more information on novel and genetically modified foods, visit Health Canada’s page on Novel foods.


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